LORETO, BCS, MEXICO – On August 16th 2023, Nopoló Park and Loreto II Park were set aside for conservation via two Presidential decrees to support sustainable development, ecotourism, and permanent habitat protection. These two new parks will support activities that are economically beneficial to local communities without sacrificing the natural resources that are essential to the well-being of current and future generations.
Nestled between the foothills of the Sierra de la Giganta mountains and the shores of Loreto Bay National Park / Parque Nacional Bahia Loreto, sits the municipality of Loreto in the beautiful Mexican state of Baja California Sur. As a popular tourist destination, Loreto is truly a nature lover’s paradise. Loreto boasts diverse ecosystems such as cardón cacti forests, upland deserts, and unique seashore habitats. Just the coastal land is 7+kms of beach right in front of where blue whales come to give birth and feed their young. Over all, this region encompasses nearly 250 kilometers (155 miles) of coastline, 750 square kilometers (290 square miles) of sea, and 14 islands – (actually 5 islands and several islotes/tiny islands).
In the 1970s, the National Tourism Development Foundation (FONATUR) identified Loreto as a prime region for ‘tourism development’ in recognition of the special and unique qualities of Loreto. The Ocean Foundation and its local partners have sought to protect this area through the establishment of these new parks: Nopoló Park and Loreto II. With continuing community support, we envision developing a healthy and vibrant park that is sustainably managed, protects local freshwater resources, and vitalizes community-based ecotourism initiatives. Ultimately, this park will strengthen the local ecotourism sector and promote sustainable development while serving as a successful model for other areas threatened by mass tourism.
The Nopoló Park’s and Loreto II specific objectives are:
- To conserve the elements that permit adequate ecosystem functioning and their associated ecosystem services in Loreto
- To protect and sustain scarce water resources
- To expand outdoor recreational opportunities
- To protect wetlands and watersheds in desert ecosystems
- To conserve biodiversity, with special attention to endemic (species that only occur in this area) and endangered species
- To heighten appreciation and knowledge of nature and its benefits
- To protect ecosystem connectivity and the integrity of biological corridors
- To boost local development
- To have access to Loreto Bay National Park
- To experience the Loreto Bay National Park
- To create education and social value
- To create long term value
About Nopoló Park and Loreto II
The creation of Nopoló Park is important not only because of the region’s renowned natural beauty, but because the integrity of the local ecosystems and communities that depend on it. Nopoló Park is of great hydrological significance. The Nopoló Park watershed found here recharges the local aquifer that serve as part of Loreto’s freshwater source. Any unsustainable development or mining on this land could threaten the entire Loreto Bay National Marine Park, and put the supply of fresh water at risk.
Currently, 16.64% of Loreto’s surface area is under mining concessions — a more than 800% increase in concessions since 2010. Mining activities can have rippling negative consequences: endangering the limited water resources of Baja California Sur and potentially compromising Loreto’s agriculture, livestock, tourism, and other economic activities throughout the region. Establishing Nopoló Park and Loreto II park ensures that this biologically significant place is preserved. Formal protection of this delicate habitat is a long-sought goal. The Loreto II reserve ensures that locals will be able to experience the coastline and the marine park in perpetuity.
Loretanos has already played a major role in the park’s realization and are actively transforming Loreto into a sustainable outdoor adventure destination. The Ocean Foundation has worked with local community groups, outdoor enthusiasts and businesses to support outdoor tourism in the area. As a demonstration of the community’s support, The Ocean Foundation and its Keep Loreto Magical program, along with Sea Kayak Baja Mexico, successfully securing over 900 local signatures on the petition to support the transfer of the 16,990-acre parcel from the national Tourism Development Foundation (FONATUR) to the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) for permanent federal protection. Today, we celebrate the formal establishment of Nopoló Park and Loreto II, Loreto’s two newest coastal and mountain reserves.
Partners in the Project
- The Ocean Foundation
- The Conservation Alliance
- Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP)
- National Tourism Development Foundation of Mexico (FONATUR)
- Columbia Sportswear
- Sea Kayak Baja Mexico: Ginni Callahan
- Home Owners Association of Loreto Bay – John Filby, TIA Abby, Brenda Kelly, Richard Simmons, Catherine Tyrell, Erin Allen, and Mark Moss
- Ranchers of the Sierra La Giganta within the Municipality of Loreto
- Hiking community of Loreto – signers of petition
- Loreto Guide Association – Rodolfo Palacios
- Videographers: Richard Emmerson, Irene Drago, and Erik Stevens
- Lilisita Orozco, Linda Ramirez, Jose Antonio Davila, and Ricardo Fuerte
- Eco-Alianza de Loreto – Nidia Ramirez
- Alianza Hotelera de Loreto – Gilberto Amador
- Niparaja – Sociedad de Historia Natural – Francisco Olmos
The community has come together for this cause by not only producing a variety of multimedia content for outreach purposes but by also painting a beautiful mural in the city highlighting the park’s biodiversity. Here are a few videos produced by the Keep Loreto Magical program on park-related initiatives:
- Community-Led Arroyo Volunteer Clean-Up
- La Ruta Verde a Tiombó (new recreational corridor)
- Presentation by Sea Kayak Baja Mexico: Ginni Callahan
- Overview video of Nopoló Park: Keep Loreto Magical
About Project Partners
The Ocean Foundation
As a legally incorporated and registered 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, The Ocean Foundation (TOF) is the only community foundation dedicated to advancing marine conservation around the world. Since its establishment in 2002, TOF has worked tirelessly to support, strengthen, and promote those organizations dedicated to reversing the trend of destruction of ocean environments around the world. TOF achieves its mission through three interrelated lines of business: fund management and grant-making, consulting and capacity-building, and donor management and development.
TOF’s Experience in Mexico
Long before launching the Nopoló Park Project in Loreto two years ago, TOF had a deep history of philanthropy in Mexico. Since 1986, TOF’s President, Mark J. Spalding, has worked throughout Mexico, and his love for the country is reflected in TOF’s 15 years of impassioned stewardship there. Through the years, TOF has formed relationships with two of Loreto’s leading environmental NGOs: Eco-Alianza and Grupo Ecological Antares (the latter is no longer in operation). Thanks in part to these relationships, the NGOs’ financial supporters, and local politicians, TOF has advanced multiple environmental initiatives throughout Mexico, including the protection of Laguna San Ignacio and Cabo Pulmo. In Loreto, TOF helped pass a series of bold local ordinances to ban motorized vehicles on beaches and prohibit mining in the municipality. From the community leaders to the city council, the Mayor of Loreto, the Governor of Baja California Sur, and the Secretaries of Tourism and Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries, TOF has thoroughly laid the groundwork for inevitable success.
In 2004, TOF spearheaded the establishment of the Loreto Bay Foundation (LBF) to ensure sustainable development in Loreto. Over the last decade, TOF has acted a neutral third party and helped to create:
- The Loreto Bay National Marine Park’s management plan
- Loreto’s legacy as the first city (municipality) to ever have an ecological ordinance (in the state of BCS)
- Loreto’s separate land use ordinance to prohibit mining
- The first land use ordinance to require municipal action to enforce federal law prohibiting motorized vehicles on the beach
Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, or ‘CONANP’
CONAP is a federal agency of Mexico that provides protection and administration to the country’s most sensitive regions. CONAP currently oversees 182 Protected natural areas in Mexico, covering 25.4 million hectares in total.
- 67 Mexican Parks
- 44 Mexican Biosphere Reserves
- 40 Mexican Protected Flora & Fauna Areas
- 18 Mexican Nature Sanctuaries
- 8 Mexican Protected Natural Resource Areas
- 5 Mexican Natural Monuments
National Tourism Development Foundation of Mexico or ‘Fonatur’
Fonatur’s mission is to identify, concentrate and set off projects of sustainable investments in the tourist sector, focused on the regional development, the generation of employments, the capture of currencies, the economic development and the social well-being, to improve the quality of life of the population. Fonatur works as a strategic instrument for sustainable investment into Mexico, helping to improve social equality and strengthening the competitiveness of the tourist sector, in benefit of the local residents.
The Conservation Alliance
The Conservation Alliance works to protect and restore America’s wild places by engaging businesses to fund and partner with organizations. Since their conception in 1989, the Alliance has contributed more than $20 million to grassroots conservation groups and has helped to protect over 51 million acres and over 3,000 river miles throughout North America.
Columbia’s focus on outdoor conservation and education has made them a leading innovator in outdoor apparel. The corporate partnership between Columbia Sportswear and TOF began in 2008, through TOF’s SeaGrass Grow Campaign, which consisted of the planting and restoring of seagrass in Florida. For the past eleven years, Columbia has provided high-quality in-kind gear that TOF projects rely on to perform field work critical to ocean conservation. Columbia has demonstrated a commitment to enduring, iconic and innovative products that enable people to enjoy the outdoors longer. As an outdoor company, Columbia makes every effort to respect and preserve natural resources, with a goal to limit their impact on the communities they touch while sustaining the land we all love.
Sea Kayak Baja Mexico
Sea Kayak Baja Mexico remains a small company by choice–unique, passionate about what they do, and good at it. Ginni Callahan oversees the operation, coaches, and guides. She originally ran all the trips, did all the office work and cleaned and repaired the gear but now appreciates the enthusiastic support of a team of spirited, talented, hard-working guides and support staff. Ginni Callahan is an American Canoe Association Advanced Open Water Instructor, then a BCU (British Canoe Union; now called British Canoeing) Level 4 Sea Coach and a 5-star Sea Leader. She is the only woman who has crossed the Sea of Cortes by kayak alone.